KUALA LUMPUR: At least one Muslim, said to hold atheistic views, is being questioned by both the police and the Islamic religious authorities.
According to a report in The Australian, the man has been questioned by police for long stretches, and has been asked to turn over his phone and his Facebook account.
The report, on how Islamisation is creeping into Malaysian society, quoted a Muslim who holds atheistic views in private as saying that the authorities were hunting for Muslim who were atheists.
The man, given the name Zahari to protect his identity, belongs to the Kuala Lumpur-based atheist club which hit the local headlines recently when a photograph was uploaded to Facebook showing smiling members at a rare social gathering of the largely online group.
On Aug 6, the government said it would investigate whether any Muslims had joined the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic, a Canada-based organisation.
Zahari told The Australian that the authorities had singled out one from his group for questioning in the hope he “will break and rat us out”.
He said the man had been interrogated by both the police and officials of the Islamic religious affairs department. The latter, Zahari claimed, had threatened to try the man in the shariah court for apostasy and to convince his wife to annul their marriage.
“There is no room for civil discourse when it concerns religion here. We are lucky to have secular laws and people defending them still. But I’m not sure how long that will last.
“This is a window into a moderate (Muslim) nation that is turning conservative,” Zahari was quoted as saying.
Zahari said he had been careful to stay out of pictures taken that day, but that he had been spending the past week looking over his shoulder.
According to the report, some of those in the photograph had received death threats and had gone into hiding, fearing attacks from vigilantes or detention by Islamic religious authorities in one of the country’s Islamic re-education centres.
Last week, federal minister Shahidan Kassim made headlines locally and abroad when he said atheists should be “hunted down”. He claimed they were in violation of the Federal Constitution.
The Negri Sembilan state mufti Mohd Yusof Ahmad reportedly said Islam prescribed death against Muslims who left the religion for atheism, if they were “stubborn” and refused to repent.
Earlier Channel News Asia had quoted one Muslim who practises atheism as saying: “I am worried. I have already accepted that something might happen to me … that I might be killed.
“I say this because I see how extreme people have become, how my Facebook friends (could) turn into real-life threats for me with their comments that it is halal (permitted) to kill atheists, apostates … how eager they are to kill to gain merits in heaven.”